Is Enough"

 Raphael Palomino

 February 1999

 Sr. Palomino was the first president
 of the Mancomunidad after the 1985
 border opening.

 He is a member of the PSOE.


Events in Gibraltar in recent weeks appear quite ridiculous to us. Yes, the statements being made by various parties, but for a few notable exceptions, the proposals put forward by the Spanish Government, and the excuses being advanced for acting in the way they do all these appear to us to be ridiculous.

What also appears ridiculous and worrying is the total absence of any policy or strategy. This is obliging those who conduct our affairs to improvise, and, as often happens in such cases, to decide on courses of action which have not been thought through, and which will soon have to be backtracked on.

The solution being proposed, after so much outrage, is well known to us in the area: closure, no, I beg your pardon, I mean to say an increase of controls at the frontier, and a development plan!

This imaginative solution - forgive the sense or irony - will have foreseen to the smallest detail the consequences for specific groups, for the local economies, for the Spanish interests in relation to the Gibraltar dispute; a detailed schedule will have been studied, although the experts prefer to keep this secret at present, which assures Spanish workers a job the day after they are sacked in Gibraltar, and similar assurances for the restaurants and hotels that are empty, all with thousands of Japanese investors who a high level ministry official will put out from his sleeve!

Finally, the authors of this patriotic solution will have predicted a great advance in community policy: cultural and sporting associations will increase contact between the two communities, Gibraltar will be eager to be Spanish, our relations with other European countries will be improved, and....yes, we will all be happy!"

This is all absurd. But also very sad. It is an insult to one's intelligence. But, and this is the key point we want to make, sadly, it could not have happened any other way.

Unfortuantely, what is happening is the result of an accumulation of circumstances which, if only in summary form, let us analyse, trying not to go into what is well known nor into what is being repeated a nauseam in recent days.

Events highlighting the following:

1. An alarming spinelessness in the Campo de Gibraltar.

It has not been possible to find a solid administrative solution which takes into account the specifics of the Region (Comarca) and the wishes of its inhabitants.

On the contrary, much time has been wasted in political and professional associations, principally in Cadiz, how to oppose many of our aspirations. And this still continues to happen. It would be illuminating to know, for example, the history of out political parties, all of them, and their internal struggles which weakened the infrastructure of our region.

The consequences of action by centralised provincial power against our immediate region, and the lack of valour by us, leading to our failure to create a regional administration which meets our aspirations, are both, unfortunately, worrying.

The lack of spine which we refer to proves itself in the weakness of parties in the Comarca in the municipalities and the Mancommunidad de Municipios, in the lack of an interlocutor, in the low level of links with trade unions, in the absence of influential socio-cultural associations for the area. This situation is an ideal atmosphere, for, in the best cases, the appearance of those who promise the earth, or the grand entrance of GIL acolytes as a solution to all our problems.

It was very clear that no institutionalised relationship with Gibraltar exists and everything is reduced to sporadic contracts, which, in the majority of cases, go nowhere or fail when, for example, a particular mayor or minister from Gibraltar seeks with "air's and graces" far minor advantage or a level or personal protagonism.

What does not and cannot exist, for all these reasons, is a neighbourly relationship which, on the sidelines of the "matters of state," advances the understanding, friendship and joint development which the communities living on either side of the gate desire.

2. Madrid does not give the problem the slightest bit of interest.

That may seem an excessively hard remark, and apart from anything, a contradictory claim for this who see our Minister and the Government of late making and announcing proposals on this issue. I'll try and explain.

When a planned does not exist, continuously and regularly effected, and with policy some clear final objectives - the most important of which may be the recovery of sovereignty - and other events ensure this; when the human and material resources on evaluates the advances or retrocession that may take place.

When we lack so many things, we are entitled to think that the Spanish Government is actually not interested in this important matter, to which it has devoted no real attention. Of course, when a particular problem arises, and it feels obliged to intervene, it does so, as it has in recent weeks: rushing, without calculating risks, weakly, and in bad faith.

Do you know how many officials of the Ministry are dedicated exclusively to think, study, reflect and produce ideas and also follow what is happening in Europe's only colony? None!

No one should therefore, be surprised by the somersaults, ups and downs, and the lack of respect for the citizens of the Campo de Gibraltar.

3. On the contrary, and as Spaniards it bothers us that this is the case, each year we repeat a meeting with the Foreign Office which asks on events there, and to express our concerns on certain matters.

It is now ten or twelve years that we have lacked any form of institutional responsibility or policy. This process, and the means by which it operates, is something unknown to us but, we are assured, it is infinitely superior to ours. It allows a political line to exist which, the Spanish Foreign Ministry participates. A fixed feature: all the ministers of Great Britain we have known have included in their statements on Gibraltar that "nothing will be done against the wishes of Gibraltarians."

4. The vast majority of Spanish citizens, including those in the Campo, have no understanding of the socio-exonomic reality of Gibraltar or its politics, its centuries of history, its relations with Spain in other areas, its rights and its culture, its fears, its deficiencies, and its problems.

Whilst we Spaniards seek a solution satisfactory to Spain on the Gibraltar dispute, they too seek an agreement which does not prejudice them and which is acceptable to the people of Gibraltar.

These positions can appear to be very far apart. We believe they are not so. In any case, the climate is not the best calculated to move forward one of the possible options.

Matutes has made his mistake, from our stand-point, when he threw the recent proposals out of the window, losing out on what could have been a good starting point. One has to understand llanitos. They are people. We cannot just punish them when they do something we do not like.

5. The recent Governments of Gibraltar have not known how to adapt to new circumstances: the opening of the frontier, the complexity of Spanish society, new economic opportunities, the evolution of the EU, the distinct structure of the GDP in Gibraltar, just to name a few.

Gibraltarian leaders, for example, are not aware of the political structure in Spain, its most important and influential people, how the economy functions, etc. They have made a great effort to publicise, in the remotest parts of the world, Gibraltar's opportunities, but they have not done so with the same intensity in Spain. There are offices to promote Gibraltar in the most exotic places, with limited market opportunities, but not in the most important cities in Spain.

They have rejected the sharing of infrastructural services with the Campo for fear of suffering some form of restrictions when relations with pain deteriorate.

They have not been able to become known by, and, as such, understood by Spain; they have certain complex which shows itself in the apprehensive, or semi-paranoid, character as to the exercise of some of their powers, and they become obsessed with broadening these, even if only artificially, irrespective of whether this just confronts them with Spain or simply paralyses the opportunity of measures that are benefit to them.


Well, a Comarca lacking in backbone, a Government that does not take matters in hand, and some Gibraltarians on the defensive, all this joined to an absolute absence of method, structure and co-ordination, creates scope for almost anything to happen.

For example, there is the fishing conflict.

It is enough that the fishermen, tired of repeated non-fulfilment of agreements between Spain and Britain have decided to deal with Peter Caruana to make our minister so inflamed that he has moved to virtually close the frontier.

What happened with fishermen can happen with any form of problem, be it the Spanish worker in Gibraltar, pensioners, the hotel sector of the Campo, businessmen who sell all types of goals on the Rock, with Ilanitos who live in Spain, with the sick who need urgent care, with school trips, with tourists from other countries, with Gibraltar businessmen.

The fishing dispute it not itself important. The very serious issue is that such things can happen.

We will see how things develop in the coming days. It would be great if normality is restored that events serve to introduce a more rational approach to this issue.

And another thing: if the Plan for Development is finally approved, and the same day a Steering Committee is set up for it with parliamentary representation, many will remember how things were done years back and it would be good if some friends area of Alvarez Cascos invites the members of the Committee down to take a walk through the Campamento industrial area and El Zabal, to see what is left of previous such plans.

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